The enhanced V‑Amp 2 has more sounds and more features... for less money!
When we tested the Behringer V‑Amp back in June 2001, it earned itself a positive review based on the range and quality of facilities it provided at an almost shockingly low price. It also had one of the best user interfaces around, offering rotary encoders surrounded by LEDs rather than standard pots. Now it has been superseded by the even more affordable V‑Amp 2, which is still supplied with a dual footswitch and gig bag as standard.
The V‑Amp 2 is a very significant upgrade, not only because it provides twice as many amp models, but also because the amp modelling seems more responsive, with more low-end punch. Fortunately, owners of the original V‑Amp can upgrade by replacing one plug-in chip, and existing patches are compatible with the new version, although the new hardware seems a little quieter. As before, there are 125 preset locations (arranged as 25 banks of five), all of which can be overwritten by user patches. Free editing software may also be downloaded from the Behringer web site.
There are now 32 amp simulations, and the Tap button has been given a second function as a shift key, allowing the same front panel controls to access extra parameters. Because of this, the V‑Amp 2 needs no new controls, though some of the secondary functions are screened onto the front panel in grey. The three-band EQ has been extended to add Presence (hold Tap while turning the Treble knob) and there's a new three-band global EQ that can be used to match the overall sound of the unit to any stage amp. An additional effect parameter is brought under direct front-panel control (using the Effects control with Tap held down) and five distinct operating modes have been added to make moving between live performance and the studio easier. There's also a preamp bypass feature allowing the effects to be used without amp or speaker modelling.
The new operational modes make for greater flexibility in use. Studio 1 mode provides a stereo output with stereo effects and speaker simulation, while Studio 2 adds effects to the right output only and has just the modelled amp sound (with any dynamics processing) on the left. This latter mode is useful if you want to add effects after recording, but still need to monitor some effects while playing.
Live 1 mode is similar to Studio 1, with the addition of the global EQ, while Live 2 is the same but with no speaker simulation. Live 3 provides a left output with no cabinet simulation but with global EQ (for feeding a guitar amp) while the right output has cabinet simulation but no global EQ (to feed a PA system).
The new amp models are mainly variations on the original types, so Clean V‑Amp is teamed up with California Clean, Rectified Hi Gain with Rectified Head and so on. Reverb is available to all patches (with a choice of nine different reverb types) while the other effects are selectable either singly or in combination with Tap tempo adjustment where appropriate. One niggle, though, is that compression can't be applied independently of the effects section.
While I have yet to come across a modelling preamp that both sounds and 'feels' like a good guitar amplifier, the V‑Amp 2 probably comes as close as any in terms of 'soundalike' capability and it has a nicely forward character that helps the sounds stand out in a mix. I was particularly impressed by the wealth of clean and on-the-edge sounds, and though the effects section doesn't compare with that of my (more expensive) Digitech Genesis 3, it is nevertheless capable of recreating most of the guitar treatments heard on record in a fairly general way. The amp models all seem to interpret playing dynamics better than they did originally, so you can get a pronounced change in sound by varying your picking intensity, and there's enough low-end kick to produce a convincing rock sound.
Accepting that no modelling preamp yet offers a complete solution to guitar recording, the V‑Amp 2 is impressively powerful and is capable of better clean amp emulations than some of its more expensive rivals. Given its insanely low UK price, exceptionally clear user interface and enhanced feature set, I can't see it as anything other than a real bargain.